Five Chicago Bears To Watch This Week

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Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) makes a catch during the second half against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Green Bay won 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver

Playing with a strained calf, Jeffery didn’t have much of a burst against Green Bay, but still managed to catch five passes for almost 80 yards. It was a good sign for the man who is now the Bears’ top wide receiver after the team traded Brandon Marshall in the offseason.

Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) rushes the ball against Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields (37) and free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21) during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Most of Jeffery’s catches came against Sam Shields, a solid cornerback for Green Bay. This week, it seems likely he’ll match-up against Patrick Peterson, the talented Cardinals cornerback who has had three interceptions each of the past two seasons.

Never a speed receiver, Jeffery did look a step slow running with the rock in Week 1, but I was impressed with the passes he did catch. He caught a short drag route, running across the field, and cut it upfield for 25 yards. Later, on a third down, he caught an out ball for a first down, pushing the Bears into better field goal territory.

All in all, it was an impressive week for a guy who missed all the preseason games and was playing in his first game in a new system.

Jeffery had full participation in practice on Wednesday, according to ESPN, as did fellow receivers Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson. That’s a good sign, as it should help the offense get on the same page even more than they were in Week 1.

This week, though, is a major challenge for Jeffery.

Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) reacts against the New Orleans Saints at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Saints 31-19. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last week he looked solid against Shields. That’s great. Now he’s taking a step up in competition. Peterson, who wasn’t as dominant last year as he was in past years, is still one of the better cornerbacks in the league. At 6’1”, Peterson is only slightly shorter than Jeffery, negating the usual height and leaping advantage Jeffery possesses over most other cornerbacks.

I think the Bears will need to come up with some creative ways to get Jeffery the ball; drag routes (always difficult to cover), pick plays, comebacks, or even some hitches and other plays that will force Peterson to tackle Jeffery in the open field.

What the Bears can’t do is send Jeffery down the field and allow Cutler to lob passes to him. Cutler threw too many deep balls last week off his back foot; fortunately, most of them were overthrown. Those passes last week weren’t a terrible option, as Jeffery had four inches in height on Shields, and had a solid chance to catch a jump ball. This week, that height advantage is cut in half, and throwing jump balls around Peterson will set the Bears up for turnovers.

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